Childhood and Education

An Informal Education

“But I left school at fifteen, and I like to say that’s when I really started learning.”

“I was in my teens, my early teens then. And then Mother remarried and took my two older sisters and I into Chicago. But I left school at fifteen, and I like to say that’s when I really started learning. I know school people don’t like me to tell them that but that’s really so.”

Grace Thorpe was born on December 10, 1921, in Yale, Oklahoma, to James Thorpe and Iva Margaret Miller Thorpe. She had three older siblings Gail Margaret, James, and Charlotte Marie. Grace’s brother James died from polio as a child. When Grace was two years old her parents divorced, and her mother moved her and her sisters to Chicago. Her father eventually remarried, moved to California, and had four sons. Grace attended St. Mary’s Academy and Sacred Heart in Oklahoma. Then she began attending Haskell Institute, a Native American school in Kansas. Grace, however, stopped attending school at age 15 and went to live with her father in California.

Editor's Note: Throughout this tour, we refer to Grace Thorpe's heritage using multiple terms including American Indian, Native American, and specific tribal affiliations, including the Sac and Fox Nation. This diversity of references to Indigenous heritage is in keeping with the many ways in which American Indian people have referred to themselves during Grace Thorpe's lifetime and the ways in which different people prefer to be identified today. For more informaiton, see: